by Kenneth Justice
~Last night at the café one of my favorite coffee friends (a trial lawyer) came and sat at my table. Unfortunately he didn’t have good news, “Kenneth I can only sit for a few minutes because I have to pick up my brother at the airport….he’s flying in to see my father”
I had known that the lawyer’s father had a stroke a couple months ago and apparently his father is not going to recover; at 89 years old the father has lived a full life and now the three brothers were all going to be at the bedside last night for what was likely going to be the last time they would see their father alive.
The lawyer has been telling me stories about his father over the course of the past month….it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that he told me about the stroke and the impending death…. and it was then that I realized why he had been sharing with me so many memories of his childhood; his dad was dying and by talking with me he was remembering all the good times he had with his father and all the things he cherished about the man.
When I got the call in 2008 that my own father was near the end….it was on the plane ride to Florida to see him that I began writing down a biography of his life; by writing about my father and remembering all the good (as well as the bad) it helped me to cope with his impending death and all the varied emotions pulsating through my veins.
I don’t know if my father completely understood that he was about to die, but in the final two hours that he was conscious he began talking to me about his entire life; he shared with me some of the mistakes he made as a youth, he told me how proud he was of the life I was living, and he talked at great length about a number of things he had never revealed to me before. The cancer had spread throughout his entire body and my father was in a lot of pain; and in those final few breaths as he grappled against the sickness that was attacking him…..he shared his memories.
There is something about remembering the past that can heal broken hearts and be a refreshing spring of water to the thirsty.
In ancient days, remembering the past was such a vital component of society that people would erect stones and monuments in order to remind all the people of the events that had taken place among their ancestors. Pharaohs’ built pyramids, the Greeks built statues, every culture throughout history has done their best to pass down the stories of long ago to future generations.
I occasionally meet new people at the various café’s I hang out at and one of the most common threads of discussion are people telling me about their past;
—-) People who have been hurt or abused talk about those stories from their past
—-) People who are in love talk about how they met their lover
—-) People who are lonely talk about times when they were happy
There is something about remembering the past that can heal broken hearts and be a refreshing spring of water to the thirsty
You see, whether people have bad memories or good memories; most people want to remember them. Perhaps it has something to do with how our past has contributed to the person we are today. Perhaps people want to remember the past in order to understand why they are struggling or succeeding in their current life.
Whatever reason it is; people love to remember. They love to share stories of good times, of bad times, and even times when they were embarrassed or they screwed up. People connect with each other by sharing the stories of their past. Even in my little articles that I write each morning; I am recounting the experiences of yesterday; essentially, I am sharing my memories of my past.
I guess because Christmas is just around-the-corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. For me, its a big deal to understand that it is the story about that night in Bethlehem so long ago, which has been passed from one generation to the next until eventually, it was told to me.
—) Some people have taken the story of the Christ child and used it as a way to stir up religious wars and persecute the innocent
—) But others have taken the story of the Nativity and used it as the fuel to serve others, to reach out to the poor, the defenseless, and the brokenhearted.
For many people like myself, the story of the Christ child is a major reminder to us that we are called to love others and to reach out to those that society ignores and neglects. Religion for me is not a system of dull rules and regulations…..holidays like Christmas are instead, a time of positive memories that propel me towards positive actions.
Of course, as a Christian it is so important for me to remember the bad things that Christians in the past are guilty of; the cruel wars, the racism, misogyny, the use of the bible to justify slavery….and all the other evil blots on the Christian church. Its okay for me to remember those things; because I don’t want to be guilty of repeating those bad behaviors.
So as I listened to the lawyer tell me another story about his father…..I remembered my own experience sitting with my dad as he died…and how grateful I am for all my memories.
For now, its time for my morning coffee,
Categories: Culture & Society